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  • Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield

    Cpt.instr. Ovidiu SIMULEAC

    Intelligence Preparation of Battlefield or IPB as it is more commonly known is a Command and staff tool that allows systematic, continuous analysis of the enemy and the battlefield environment to be carried out and which presents the results in a graphical format.

    One key point that you must understand is that IPB is an integrated method of analysing Enemy, Ground and Friendly Forces factors in the Estimate. Therefore, it is very much part of the estimate process and, as a result, it needs to be dynamic. This means it is a continuous process that evaluates new information on the 3 major factors and the results of IPB are update accordingly.

    As part of the estimate, IPB is carried out at all levels. At the operational level it is likely to be a complex process and it will be dependent on a large staff effort, a comprehensive Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (STAR) system to gather information, and on the consideration of both military and political factors. However, at every level of command the IPB process is designed to do one basic thing and that is to help the commander assess the enemys intentions. Armed with this knowledge the commander can make an accurate estimate of what the enemy is likely or going to do, before he does it.

    In other words it will help the commander to get inside his enemies decision cycle so that he can defeat him.

    So let us have a look at the IPB process. IPB is a continuous cyclical process that is closely linked with the individual stages of the estimate process. It consists of three main steps. The information and intelligence gained from each step is represented graphically in a series of overlays. These overlays enable information and intelligence to be displayed to meet the full range of intelligence requirements.

    The IPB process comprises 3 steps. The first step is Battlefield Area Evaluation. In this first step we look at the environment, factors like the ground, routes and the weather. Then we consider how they will affect operations conducted by both friendly and enemy forces. The main purpose of this step is to identify where our own and enemy forces can, and cannot go. For example, open, flat ground may present good routes and by linking these areas we may identify a mobility corridor.

    Mobility Corridors are effectively routes which formations can use tactically and deploy according to their doctrine. A Mobility Corridor should be large enough to allow formations freedom to maneuver and

  • therefore Mobility Corridors normally lie through areas of good going. They should bypass NO GO terrain, in other words where it is not possible to maneuver, for example mountains, although they may need to use SLOW GO areas, which are exactly what their names suggest. For example built-up areas may be considered to be slow-go areas.

    Normally, a formation will require more than one Mobility Corridor. In fact, a viable Avenue of Approach for a formation should contain 2 or more Mobility Corridors, running in the same direction. These will be allocated to subordinated units. For example, a divisional Avenue of Approach may have 3 separate Mobility Corridors, one for each brigade but there are no firm rules, as the terrain will dictate how many Mobility Corridors are viable.

    A successful Battlefield Area Evaluation will result in a detailed database of the battlefield environment, which will need to be continuously up-dated from the start of planning operations right to the end of the operation. The maintenance of this database involves the considerations of all the factors that may affect the battlefield environment and thus the ability of both the friendly force and the enemy to operate within an Area of Operations.

    These principal factors are: Terrain The GOs and NO GOs possibilities Infrastructure communications network Climate related to the terrain factor Social-Economic limit damages All these factors need to be assessed and then your deductions can be

    shown on a map overlay which as we have seen will show likely maneuver areas, Mobility Corridors and Avenues of Approach.

    Finally, in this stage, the information and intelligence derived from the sources or agencies may be represented on a series of individual map overlays. For example, you may have a weather overlay, a NO GO and SLOW GO overlay and a Major Roads overlay. These overlays may be used in two ways. First, by using them in the rest of the IPB process or passing them to the J3 or J5 staff for use in the early stages of the estimate or planning process.

    The second step is Threat Evaluation. In this stage the exact nature of the threat will be identified. This means making an assessment of the enemys doctrine and tactics, which are likely to be used against friendly forces. From this it should be possible to assess the types of operation the enemy is capable of conducting.

    This second stage of the IPB process consists of a series of separate actions aimed at identifying the enemys overall capability, based on his doctrine. The first action is to locate the enemy. Strategic and operational sources and agencies will be tasked in the Collection Plan to collect this information on the enemy. From this the aim is to determine the enemys organisation, strength and equipment. We then need to assess his

  • operational and tactical doctrine. Based on these two factors it is possible to predict the enemys courses of actions. These courses of action can be displayed as a series of individual map overlays setting out a possible deployment and set of tactics for each course of action.

    An example of this doctrinal overlay is presented below:


    (-)DIV REGT

    RAG (-)



    0 2km 3km 1000m

    Here we can see an enemys Regiment attacking a friendly Battalion.

    The enemys current order of battle is as follows: a Divisional Recce Platoon, a Combat Recce Patrol (CRP), Vanguard (Company size), Advance Guard (Battalion size), Regimental Artillery Group (RAG), and other forces. The enemy force has been presented on the overlay in accordance with their doctrine. In other words this is an assessment of how the enemy will approach our defensive force. Also shown on this overlay are the boundaries for this regiment. Again, this is an assessment based on the frontages for a regiment given in the enemys doctrine. The friendly forces consist of current disposition of the first echelon (two Mechanized Infantry Companies), the second echelon (one Mechanized Infantry Company) and the reserve. These are actual positions of friendly forces. You must note that the terrain is not taken into consideration at this stage of the Threat Evaluation.

  • The final step in the IPB process is Threat Integration. This consists of the combination of the results from the first and the second steps. Thus, Threat Integration seeks to identify how the battlefield environment will shape the enemys doctrine. The situation overlay fits the doctrinal model for the perfect operation into the reality of the battlefield environment. In other words, the G2 staff attempts to place themselves in the enemy commanders position and mould the doctrinal model to fit around the restrictions imposed by the terrain, weather, infrastructure, and other factors. The resulting overlay containing avenues of approach and mobility corridors represents a course of action that may be adopted by the enemy. It will also contain Phase Lines which indicate points in time and space where the momentum of the enemys operation may be lost and where friendly forces may be able to seize the initiative. The situation overlay provides a picture of an enemy course of action that can be used to test your own courses of action during the estimate. This is known as war gaming.

    Here is an example of the situation overlay. We will take the opportunity to describe this example.

    This overlay presents the doctrinal overlay overlapped on the ground overlay (or the real dispositions based on doctrine and terrain). An enemys course of action means that he will need to adjust what it says in his doctrine for the movement of the VANGUARD, the Advance Guard and the main body of this regiment, to take account of the terrain. And on this example you can see how different overlays (Doctrinal Overlay, Weather Overlay and Terrain Overlay) are overlapped in order to obtain the Situation Overlay. So, the situation overlay gives us a more realistic picture of what may happen. But we need more than this, or at least our commander does. Ideally he wants to confirm exactly what is happening and this is the role of the event overlay.

  • Doctrinal Overlay

    Weather Overlay


    Terrain Overlay (MCs/AAs)




    The event overlay builds up from the situation overlay and provides a major input to the G2 collection plan. It shows graphically when and where the key tactical events might be expected to take place. These places must be clearly identified, as they will be of great interest to the commander. For example, the place where the enemy may be forced to select one of two Avenues of Approach will be of great interest to the commander. He will want to know what options the enemy has selected. Such places are known as a Named Area of Interest or NAI. Essentially, these are either areas, or points, where the enemys actions will confirm or deny their intentions to pursue a specific course of action. Once a Named Area of Interest has been identified, the event or activity that will focus the attention on the NAI must be clearly defined and recorded.

    Point Named Area of Interest represents a specific point, such a bridge or choke point, at which it is wished to identify the presence or absence of the enemy.

    The final overlay so called Decision Support Overlay - is the product of the integration process. This is an event overlay in which the NAIs have been refined by the G2 and G3 staff in the course of war gaming to allow the development of Target Areas of Interest (TAIs) and Decision Points (DPs).

  • A short explanation of these terms will allow you to understand the whole process. The significance of these areas and points is as follows:

    Target Areas of Interest are the points and areas in the Area of Operations identified from the event overlay. They are locations where the commander can influence the operation by destroying, delaying or disrupting the threat using his strike assets. The identification of the Target Areas of Interest, which may be either Point or Area Named Area of Interest, is the initial step in the targeting process that will be presented to you later on. The ground, what the likely target is and what type or strength of force is to be applied against it will dictate the size of the TAIs.

    Decision Points - these are points in time and space at which the commander must make a decision if he is to influence the operation in a particular Target Area of Interest. Decision Points are linked with Target Areas of Interest and must be offset from the point where the action has to take place in order to allow sufficient lead-time for the action to be initiated.

    At the conclusion of the IPB process is a Decision Support Overlay (or Template) that represents each of the enemys courses of action that have been produced. The commander advised by G2 staff and assisted by the information and intelligence portrayed in the overlays will decide which enemys course of action is the most likely and in the light of this assessment, consider his own options. The result of this consideration is the commanders decision that will lead his Concept of Operations and Plan. The Decision Support Overlay on which the commander has based his Decision can have a secondary role in assisting the commander and his staff to manage his plan. The use of Named Areas of Interest, Target Areas of Interest, and Decision Points contained in the overlay will trigger events in the plan. The selected Decision Support Overlay, which, in effect, represents the combined G2/G3 estimate in graphic form, may be used as the basis of the commanders planning map.

    Let us now try to present to you a few ideas about the use of IPB by showing some examples. IPB, in some form, is carried out at all levels of the chain of command.

    For instance, the Divisional Commander planning a defensive position needs to identify an obstacle on which to base his defense, the likely enemy routes and how the enemy will attack him. He must also know the configuration of the terrain that can affect the ability of his mobile reserve. Therefore, the Divisional G2 staffs IPB will involve comprehensive terrain analysis, climatic studies, interrogation of databases, an assessment of possible tactics and deployment using the doctrinal models and consideration of a wide spectrum of threat options. The process will result in a prioritized

  • range of possible threat courses of action, each with its associated likely target areas and critical decision points, against which the commander will be able to measure the options, open to him and select his own best course of action.

    At the brigade level, where the G2 organization within the headquarters is small and time available may be limited, it is still possible to conduct a comprehensive IPB process. Although the Battlefield Area Evaluation will take into account fewer factors than that conducted at divisional level. Nevertheless, a detailed doctrinal model of the threat capabilities will be available, either from the brigades own database or from that of a higher echelon. The brigade commander might reasonably expect IPB to produce for him an assessment of the enemys most likely course of action and from this, possible target areas and points on the ground where decisions affecting the conduct of operations have to be made.

    Now, when is IPB used? Historically, the use of IPB has been closely associated with operations in war. In practice, IPBs utility extends across the complete spectrum of conflict encompassing not only war but also operations other than war and also military activities in peace. The methodology involved in the IPB process is valid for any operation. An understanding of the theory and practice of the IPB process will enhance the chance of successful outcome to operations. However, IPB is a command led process involving both G2 and G3 staff.

    In this respect it should be said that the structured nature of the process leads the user logically from one step to the next until the final product, the Decision Support Overlay, is reached. The fullest implementation of the IPB concept at the corps and divisional level will require a trained and practiced G2 staff, time in which to carry out the process and access to a wide range of information and intelligence.

    As we have shown before, I...


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